Ancient Native American arrowheads
Without archeologists, much of our prehistoric history would be mere speculation. If we hadn't discovered artifacts that tell us about the civilization--what they ate, their tools and clothes, even their weather--we wouldn't know much about the people who lived before we started writing history down. Even when we do have written records, archeology can support or disprove what those say. Archeologists discover history by excavating, or digging out, artifacts. You may have done a little archeology yourself--say, finding arrowheads. By piecing together what they find, archeologists can discover a lot about a civilization. A basket made of reeds may show that those people lived near a river. Tools tell about technology. Seeds and bones can be clues to eating habits. Here are some of the tools an archeologist needs to bring on digs:
- Small shovel, preferably one that folds (called a trench shovel or trenching tool)
- Masons pointing trowels
- Short-handled hoe
- Small and medium axes
- Paintbrushes to clean the artifacts
- Cotton gloves (in case of poison ivy or sumac)
- Bags to put the artifacts in and ID tags
- Tape measure
- Pencils, notebook, and sketch pad
- Camera and film
- Screens to sift out seeds, beads, etc.
- Bandanna to keep dust out of your mouth, etc.
- Tweezers to pick up beads and other small artifacts
- Small bottles to store small or delicate artifacts
- Heavy string
- Spray-bottle to mist artifacts with water--this brings out the details and makes better photographs
Perhaps the most important tool of an archeologist is the mind of a detective. Because what archeologists do is solve mysteries: they collect clues and then piece them together to form a picture of what life was like at a certain time in a certain place.
Here's another way to practice your archeological skills on the 'Net:
MayaQuest '96: Follow and interact with a team of real archeologists as they explore ancient Mayan ruins. (All ages).